1.What is one 4th of July tradition you either miss or always carry out?
I miss the barbecues and sitting on grassy hills with friends to watch the fireworks.
2. What was your first job in hospitality?
Bartender and waiter at the Hotel Congress in Tucson, Arizona. I was there for a summer in the late nineties, covering for someone who went on vacation for three months, in-between my first and second years of graduate school.
3. What is your favourite type of cuisine to eat – preferably not the one your work in?
With the wealth of possibilities, it feels impossible to narrow my culinary loves down to one favourite. Flemish, Nordic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Thai, British, Mexican...For me, my food memories are the mile markers on my lifelong culinary journey. For example, I had an absolutely brilliant lunch this year at j.e.f. (in Gent, Belgium) that will stay with me for the rest of my life, as will the roast lamb at Pollen Street Social, the ajo con conejo at Taverna Can Margarit, the tacos at Chingón, the fries and steak sandwich at Brasserie Les Halles, the côte de boeuf at Rijsel, my wife’s salmon and slow-roasted root vegetables...
4. Which dish do you most associate with childhood?
Bacon butty—for better or worse.
5. What’s the soundtrack to your first love?
Blind, by The Sundays. It’s a great break-up album.
6. What do you crave after a long shift?
A big glass of water, solitude and silence.
7. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – what do you have?
If there’s any rye bread to be found, I’ll make smørrebrød (a Danish open-faced sandwich). If not, then eggy in the basket, or porridge, or granola, or fruit and yoghurt. Cold pizza from the night before is highly underrated as a breakfast option. Cup of herbal tea and/or one of my wife’s health-supportive smoothies.
8. What is your favourite word?
I love the way in which the word luñula entrances the tongue when said slowly and with patience. It refers to, among other things, anything with the shape of a crescent moon. I’m also a big fan of om.
9. If you could go on a culinary extravaganza-eating holiday - where would you choose to do so?
10. All at the same time or coursed out?
It would (it will!) take several days, possibly several weeks, and be consciously lubricated by the seemingly endless pleasures of Barbera.
11. What is the one area of working in a restaurant you wish you knew more of?
The kitchen. I’m certainly not oblivious to the possibilities and challenges of the kitchen, but I would love to spend more time working and learning directly, more intimately, with food.
12. What is the best cure for a hangover?
Time, sleep, magnesium and one of my wife’s health-supportive smoothies.
13. You’re allowed one shift drink – what is it?
Any drink? A Sidecar, please. Alternatively, make that a Blanton’s, double, neat.
14. What is the one thing which guests do that drives you mad?
Oh dear, the list of guest-related aggravations is long. But lack of eye contact might be at the top of that list. Directly related to lack of eye contact is mobile phone use. The impact of mobile phone use on face-to-face engagement, communication and relationship (as well as on turning tables efficiently) is hugely negative. My heart flutters wildly at the thought of the restaurants that ban mobile phone use in their dining rooms. Of course, those guests whose behaviour I find difficult and challenging are also my teachers—I feel continually motivated to deepen my empathy, compassion and patience.
15. Do you have any rituals during a shift?
16. What’s the last film you saw?
Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Brilliant stuff. I’m a sucker for well-made film noir.
17. Best thing that has ever happened to you in a restaurant?
While working: the kindness of strangers. While as a guest in someone else’s restaurant: the kindness of strangers.
18. What’s your tagline/motto?
19. Photography while eating – yay or nay?
I’m on the fence with this one. Since most guests use their phones for shooting photos, I’ll say nay. There is such a wonderful opportunity to be mindfully present with the food in front of you and the people around you, sharing a unique, multi-sensory experience. Having said that, I admit that from time to time I’ll take a photo of a dish when just looking at it rocks my world.
20. Rank the following in order of priority; wine, food, sex
food, sex, wine.
21. What would be your last meal – drinks included?
That large bowl of rosemary-crusted rabbit and garlic cloves roasted in their skins at Taverna Can Margarit in Barcelona. It was angelic. To accompany the dish? A bottle of red from the Dão region of Portugal.
22. What makes you happy?
Oh, many things—but in particular I find deep nourishment in sharing presence, food and conversation with the people I care about.
23. How do you relax?
Meditation, yoga, cooking, reading...
24. What is the background on your phone?
A black-and-white photograph of my wife.
25. Favourite Instagram accounts to follow
26. What is the best thing about working in hospitality?
The constant flow of people new and familiar, the relationships that develop, the exposure to great food and drink, the learning, the rhythms of the work . . . I discovered long ago that cubicles and I will never be friends.
27. Which restaurant are you ashamed to NOT have eaten at?
I wish I had eaten at elBulli before it closed, though I feel no shame in not having done so. I would love to sit down at one of Noma’s tables before I die.
28. Who is the person you most respect in the industry?
There are many people in the hospitality industry (here in the UK, in the States and elsewhere) whom I respect—and a few whom I don’t. I’ve learned from all of them about how to go about things and about how not to go about things. For me, gratitude, rather than respect, is the dominant feeling.
29. What is your go to party trick?
I don’t have an official, go-to party trick, but sometimes, just to lighten things up, I’ll move between accents: a Brooklyn accent here, a southern drawl there, a bit of English private school posh or Scottish burr...
30. Finish this sentence; I eat everything except…
Unfortunately, I eat just about everything. I’m particular about tomatoes, though. I hated them as a child, and that was probably because my experience of them was limited to the flavourless, vomit-inducing variety found in supermarkets (then and now). The first time I fell in love with a tomato was during dinner at De Kas (Amsterdam)—a cherry tomato flirting with a light sheen of oil and finely chopped parsley. They were divine, and I ate them as if they were popcorn at the cinema.